Designing PCBs for Military Systems in Altium Designer
Given the strict performance, sourcing, and manufacturing standards on PCBs for military systems, designers that are not experienced in this area face a number of design challenges. Military standards on mission-critical systems are designed to ensure reliability, uptime, and manufacturing quality, and these standards exceed performance standards used in nearly all other industries. Using a software package like Altium Designer helps you design your next military PCBs to the important performance standards on mission-critical systems.
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The only PCB design package that integrates layout, rules-checking, simulation, and supply chain management tools in a single program.
Just like daily life as a civilian, today’s military is becoming significantly more technical and driven by electronics. PCBs appear in everything from simple handheld devices to huge weapons and aerospace systems. More advanced PCBs typically appear in embedded systems and will include components for onboard data processing, memory, wireless communication, and signal processing.
The performance requirements in military and aerospace systems greatly outpace their civilian counterparts, and designers need layout, component management, and simulation tools that help them design, source, and verify the functionality of new military and aerospace products. Altium Designer contains all the critical design tools you need to design advanced PCBs for civilian and military applications.
The primary differences between civilian and military PCBs involve manufacturing quality standards and performance standards. PCBs for military applications must be manufactured to the highest quality standards according to MIL-PRF-50884, MIL-PRF-31032, and MIL-PRF-55110. Military PCBs are often placed in systems with high thermal demands, high power consumption, and repeated thermal cycling while providing perpetual uptime.
This means that manufacturing processes must be designed to meet AS9100 standards, which are among the strictest quality standards on any PCB manufacturing process. PCBs for use in consumer electronics do not meet these same standards, nor can they withstand the same environments as PCBs designed to military standards.
PCB Design for Military-grade Applications
As military systems will be deployed in harsh environments and tend to undergo repeated thermal cycling, PCBs in these systems must be designed to withstand extreme temperatures, as well as fluctuations between these extreme temperatures. Communications systems will also need to meet important EMC requirements as specified by the FCC. Military electronics may have odd form factor, require folding, or might be fully flexible. Therefore, designers must be familiar with flex and rigid-flex PCB design practices.
- Rigid-flex PCBs and fully flexible circuit boards will continue to become more popular, and designers need to create the right stackup to meet performance requirements in military systems.
- Vias in a multilayer circuit board should be designed such that they are as durable as possible. For this reason, through-hole vias are often used in multilayer PCBs.
- Aerospace and military PCBs for use in mission-critical systems require surge protection and power regulation, either with the right grounding strategy or using a surge protector.Learn more about ESD protection in your PCB.
Defining a layer stack in rigid-flex PCB design
Preparing military PCBs for fabrication and assembly requires preparing standardized documentation for your circuit boards that include all components, assembly instructions, Gerber files, and other documentation. You’ll need to accurately communicate the intent of your design to your PCB manufacturer. You’ll also want to panelize your boards and include fiducial markers on your board in order to maximize yield and expedite fabrication.
The best way to maximize yield and prevent redesigns is to use design for manufacturing. You’ll want to inform yourself of your manufacturer’s capabilities prior to preparing your design. This helps ensure that your manufacturer can prepare boards that meet the rigorous performance and quality requirements specified in military electronics standards.
Multi-board Design and Embedded Systems for the Military
With many PCBs for the military being embedded systems that integrate a variety of functionality, you’ll likely need multi-board design tools in your PCB design software that work alongside your standard design tools. You’ll need to ensure that you only source components and connectors for these systems from distributors that are compliant with ITAR.
When the design features in your PCB design software are built on a single design engine, you can easily design multi-board embedded systems for military hardware and prepare these advanced systems for manufacturing. You’ll also have the tools you need to remain compliant with sourcing and quality regulations.
- Military standards on PCBs don’t end with electrical performance. Designers need 3D mechanical design tools to ensure their boards meet strict performance standards.
- When it’s time to prepare for production, your manufacturer will need a complete bill of materials for your board in a consistent format.Learn more about preparing bills of materials for your PCB manufacturer.
- Component sourcing for military components is already difficult, but you can source components from compliant distributors and identify suitable replacements with the right supply chain management tools.Learn more about component sourcing with Chris Calvi, head of Octopart.
Schematic design, component selection, and simulation in Altium Designer
Designing military PCBs takes specialized design tools that allow you to specify important military design and performance standards as design rules. Your schematic design and layout tools should check your design against your design rules as you build your board. This allows you to identify problems early and correct them before sending your circuit boards off for PCB fabrication.
Altium Designer: Unifying Design Tools in a Single Program
Whether you are designing avionics systems or embedded systems for the military, your PCB design tools must be adaptable to any application and give you full control over all aspects of your design. While other design programs are busy separating design features into different programs and creating inconsistent workflows, only Altium Designer places your important design tools into a single program. You’ll be able to take complete control over your design and create top-quality PCBs for military products.
The design features in Altium Designer are built on top of a single rules-driven design engine. This engine allows you to define military performance standards as design rules within the software. Your design features will check your layout against these design tools in real time, ensuring that your board meets important design and performance standards.
- All the design tools you need to create PCBs for the defense and aerospace industries are accessible within Altium Designer.See how Altium Designer unifies PCB design features in a single environment.
- The ability to manage your bills of materials in real time helps ease the sourcing and procurement problems that come with military PCB manufacturing.Learn more about real-time BOM management in Altium Designer.
- Altium Designer includes tools that address the defense industry’s design needs and helps companies easily move to manufacturing.Learn more about Altium Designer’s solutions for military and aerospace.
Altium Designer also offers useful resources to help you get started and take your designs to the finish line. You’ll have instant access to design tutorials, the AltiumLive forum, webinars and podcasts with industry experts, and an extensive knowledge base. No other PCB design software company offers this level of support or resources for success.
Whether you are designing a PCB prototype or a printed circuit board with cutting-edge technology for military applications, Altium Designer helps you prepare for PCB assembly and manufacturing. Working in a rules-driven environment helps ensure your design will meet important performance, design, and quality standards. Designing the best PCBs takes the best design software, and the best PCB design software on the market is Altium Designer.